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July 20 2006

Amber Benson interview on Slayerlit. This is a comprehensive and intelligent interview with Amber Benson, conducted by Shiai of Slayerlit, and based on question submitted by members of that yahoo group.

There seemed to be interest in this, so I hope no one minds if I post the link. Enjoy.
No one minds. If anything, it's appreciated, I'd think. Anyway, I don't agree that with an eighth season that we would all love Kennedy and hate Tara.
It would be interesting (and difficult) to see how they could get me to like Kennedy. *shrugs nonchalantly*
Great to stumble across that interview yesterday. It was a fantastic read and I love Amber more than I did before, I think. Makes me want to dig up all her work in every medium just because.
Very enjoyable to read. I could never hate Tara, though. I liked Oz a lot, but that never made me dislike Tara, I liked her immediately. As for Kennedy, I never did like her, even a little bit. She was spoiled and pushy.
I think the only real problem with Kennedy was that there were important main characters such as Xander and Anya who were getting very little screen time, as most of the focus on season seven was on Buffy, Spike, Willow and The First, so it was even more unlikely that a new, less important character like Kennedy could be developed in necessary detail.

Back in season four, the main arcs were a little less complicated and there was pretty even focus on all of the main characters, and there were usually at least two or three great Willow and Tara scenes in every episode, and then towards the end she was more incorporated into the Scooby Gang. It felt natural, and we were allowed to get used to Tara as a character and her relationship with Willow. And although she was shy, reserved and was definitely quite similar to Willow, we definitely saw her as an independant character. Small moments such as her alluding to her mother's death in "The Body" or having the strength to leave Willow in "Tabula Rasa" were able to show us Tara's history and her growth as a character.

With Kennedy, the character was not introduced as organically as Tara, because she suddenly came from nowhere (along with the rest of the Potentials) and was kind of forced upon us. In the short time she had on the show, it was just impossible for Kennedy to be as well developed as Tara was. There was also a big difference in their personalities; Kennedy was often brash, stubborn, outspoken, where Tara was quietly strong.

However I don't fault Mutant Enemy at all because there has always been resistance to new relationships in the Buffyverse. People didn't like Oz at first, wishing that Xander and Willow would get together, then they lamented Oz's departure and didn't like Tara, who they eventually grew to love. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people didn't particularly care for Tara at the end of season four, just as many didn't like Kennedy at the end of the seventh season. I'm sure that had the show continued they would have developed the character more and from what I have seen of Iyari Limon, she would have been capable of showing that as an actress.

And I do think that Kennedy served a very important part of Willow's journey in season seven. Even if she isn't the next great love of Willow's life, I think their relationship showed us that Willow was able to move on from Tara's death, never forgetting her but not spending the rest of her life wallowing in grief and misery. It was much more empowering to see Willow accept Tara's death and realise that it was okay to keep living her own life, and of course it also showed that Willow was definitely a lesbian and Tara wasn't an "experiment" (not that I personally thought that at all, but I'm sure there were some narrow-minded people out there who did.)

The Amber interview is great. I really loved her as Tara, and unfortunately have not really followed her projects since then but I intend to sometime. She has definitely been very productive and kept her work varied and interesting. She also seems very down-to-earth and a genuinely decent person, so I'll definitely be watching a little more closely in the future.
I remember when Tara and Willow first 'got it on' (or, indeed, possibly just kissed) in Season 4 of Buffy. On the official Buffy board, hundreds of people posted either lesbian hate, or 'I'm not against lesbian's but Tara's a minger, as if Willow would go for her!!' (etc). The funny thing was, I have a vague recollection of Amber wading into the debate online at times, but that turned out to be a pointless exercise. People hate change, and they never really had enough time with the Kennedy thing during season 7 which just made the issue more apparent.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-07-20 21:46 ]
It seems a bit odd to me that the first few posts seemed to focus on what to me seemed a throwaway comment by Amber that I think was really designed to just give some props to Iyari Limon, who Amber had recently met, and to also help distance her from Tara (staying mindful of Tara's importance to so many people), which is something that I believe she would like to do as she maneuvers through anything but a typical Hollywood career. However, I think Razor has made a nice post about the entire sitch. I deplore the changes in S6 and 7, but I don't hate anyone at ME for them; I simply don't like them.

Anyway, the rest of the interview is funny, informative and gives a sense of the many aspects of Amber's talents- writer, director, screen writer, actor, web developer, singer, etc. I read it, and I laugh a lot- Shiai is pretty funny and sometimes rather bold and Amber gives as good as she gets- and she has to appreciate a truly sharp interviewer. Now, I am biased- Shiai and I talk all the time, but man, he did a good job with this, and she came through like a charm.
I agree that it isn't fair to hate Kennedy based on the sparse character development she got in Season 7, but I doubt that fans would have loved her as much as Tara or even Oz, just as they didn't take to Riley as Buffy's boyfriend as much as they did to Angel or Spike. I think the value of Kennedy's role in Willow's life was to lighten her grief, to be the next person she dates, but not to be the great love of her life. She simply didn't have that kind of chemistry with Willow, and she was kinda pushy and bratty. Good qualities for a beginner slayer, but lacking in the sensitivity it takes to appreciate kickass powerful witch Willow as the same as yellow crayon breaky Willow - and to love all of it.
Perhpas I just missed it in the interview and I've looked on her web pages. Has she ever pursued the singing anymore? I just loved her in Once More With Feeling and I always rather hoped she'd put a solo cd.
All actor interviews should be based on this template. Asking the creative person about the craft behind the creation? What a concept!
bigsofty- my point exactly!

Amber did release a 2-song CD for the Essence Board a while back as part of some fund raising. It was sort of a soft rock kind of thing. And there is a short clip of her on youtube singing Tom Dooley with Adam Busch at a recent con. I do not have the link with me right now, but perhaps someone can post it.

As for Kennedy, I guess with Joss coming out with an S8 comic, we shall see what he has in store for her with regard to Willow. Hey, there has to be angst, right? I keep hoping, with no basis to do so at all, that Tara will be back- see my comment about using Glory as a big bad and what her powers might be able to do. And hey, I also think D'Hoffryn could do it- he can alter reality fairly easily. But that is OT.

Props to the interview, again and again. And vive Floyd Landis!
The link for YouTube is here.

While a rough version from The Union Maid featuring Amber is here (and hang around for the laugh).
Great interview! Gosh, Amber Benson seems so nice and down to earth!! Excellent job, Shiai!!!!
As for the Kennedy thing...She seems (to me) to be the opposite of Tara. I don't think I loved her...but I didn't hate her either. I just felt she was different. Young. Where as Tara seemd to be an old soul. I guess I just accepted Kennedy for who and what she was. And how boring would she have been if she were "like" Tara, ykwim? Just my thoughts!
Thanks for posting this, what a marvelous interview. And Amber is such a solid professional. So nice to hear this kind of info about her career and interests.

Although I must point out that "y'all" is a vital part of speech.
Great interview, both a fun chat and insightful discussion. Ditto to bigsofty, wish they were all like this.
Yes, "y'all" is a vital component of my regional vernacular and I will be a swollen corpse with worms in my entrails and eyes before I give it up. *defiant laughter*
Yep it is a great interview from someone who has a lot to say. All the great questions in the world are useless if you dont have much of force or interest to say...
cronopio: "Although I must point out that 'y'all' is a vital part of speech."

Hear, hear, cronopio! (I know I should change my screenname to something like "SheWhoPersistentlyGoesOT," but I've got a chronic & possibly fatal case of linguaphilia and I've gone off my meds.)

Though I'm not from the southern U.S., I find "y'all" to be utterly useful and evocative, and (over)use it almost daily. I'm sorry that Amber's Dad told her that "y'all" didn't exist -- aside from the fact that it self-evidently does, that remark conjured up for me the picture of Tara's controlling father in the Buffy Season 5 episode "Family."

*snicker, snort.* But I digress... I appreciate all y'all's putting up with my everso-OT-sliding.

"Remember: 'Y'all' is singular. 'All y'all' is plural. 'All y'all's' is plural possessive." -- Kinky Friedman

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2006-07-21 05:34 ]
"Remember: 'Y'all' is singular. 'All y'all' is plural. 'All y'all's' is plural possessive." -- Kinky Friedman

Are you sure you're not quoting Kinky out of context? I am a native speaker of the same dialect, and I would say "y'all" is plural, "all y'all" is emphatic plural, and "all y'alls" is emphatic plural possessive. "You" is singular, and "y'all's" is plural possessive.
I think Kinky was just being funny, as was my intention in quoting him.

But there does seem to be a whole lotta hoo-hah on the internets about the proper use of "y'all" -- as a Yankee, I have no real position on this happy regionalism. I just purely loves it.

Here's an amusing (to me) discussion on the subject, posted by a Mark Liberman on his University of Pennsylania blog called Language Log.
Well, what does a language with "standard" dialects that possess no plural "you" expect? Tea and dumplings?
I think that it's possible that the language itself has no expectations whatsoever and would be pleasantly surprised by a gift of tea & dumplings.

I learned all my Southern regionalisms from Pogo the Possum.

-- Quoter "Southern-Dialects-Lover" Gal
Well I'm a bit late to this discussion, but I just wanted to mention the Kennedy thing again, despite how over-debated this topic is. I remember hearing how there was going to be a new love interest for Willow in Season 7 (I'm in Australia so it all aired in the states way before here). I was really excited. I liked the idea that it was unexpected because life doesn't always give you that time to grieve and I really liked the idea that she was totally different to Tara too - I thought that would really help Willow's character develop, especially in relation to her sexuality.

But ultimately I was really disapointed. I disliked the relationship because she didn't have any chemistry with Willow and it seemed forced. I don't exactly know why it didn't work, but I just didn't believe it. Maybe it was lack of screen time together, but I really disliked some of Kennedy's dialogue, it just didn't seem natural or something. There were a few times where she was more three dimensional and insightful, which really worked, but they were so rare that I just never got the character. I remember being really disapointed cause I thought it could have been a really interesting part of Willow's development.

Oh well. It annoys me even more though when people say that they 'hated' the character. Hate is such a strong word, and I always like to take into consideration the writers intentions. Basically I think characters work or they don't, and unfortunately I just don't think she worked.

Anyway, back to whatever everyone else was talking about. Slang and Amber! Both of which totally rock :)

[ edited by noonien on 2006-07-21 11:54 ]
"A: So, you just hope that people will grow with you. That's all you can do is hope...just do your thing and hope everybody is ready to accept you as a new person doing new things. But if not, then you hope that they have a really good DVD player and they can keep watching BUFFY"

I love this quote because I appreciate AB doing her new things as a director & writer and I have a really good DVD player…
Maybe I missed it but AB never talked about why she didn't come back for the retrun plotline in BTVS S7 did she? Just curious. I assume she wanted to much money or was tired of playing the character but jsut curious if she mentioned it.
She has spoken abou that, just not in that specific interview. Her reasons generally come down to the fact that she did not want to return as an evil Tara, that she felt her fans had been through enough with Tara's death and that if she signed off on a contract she would be obligated to, obviously, play the role as written- and as we know, it was written with an evil Tara coming back, since the negotiation was extended enough that the original script for CWDP (which I have seen) had to be revised to use Cassie as Tara's voice instead of Tara herself, since the issue fell apart just weeks before that ep was scheduled to shoot. Now, there may be more to this than meets the eye, but that is my understanding.
Yes, I believe that Amber thought it wouldn't be nice for her last appearance on the show to be as an evil entity. Although it wouldn't have been Tara, of course, but The First itself. But I can understand where she's coming from, although it did unfortunately detract a lot from Conversations With Dead People.

Using Cassie was a nice contingenecy, but it was nowhere near as emotional as it would have been using Amber, and the reasoning behind it within the Buffyverse is kind of illogical. The First should in theory be able to appear as any dead person it wants to, and if anyone could have convinced Willow to kill herself, it would have been Tara. Especially if Willow could have actually seen her in front of her, it would have made it seem so easy to just kill herself and be with Tara. Whereas using Cassie just made it seem more suspicous to Willow and thus makes The First's plan seem silly.

I was thinking more about the Kennedy issue last night and I do think I know why I personally didn't like her too much. I don't think she ever showed any emotional vulnerability. The only time she was ever vulnerable was when she was in physical danger. Even from the very beginning of Buffy, the core of the show was the relationships between the characters and their emotions.

Buffy was just this incredibly strong, brave, naive, likeable girl who wanted to have a normal life. We saw Xander and Willow's feelings as outcasts, both unable to get dates, both the victim of Cordelia's well targeted taunts. And even Cordelia was vulnerable- we saw that her shallow social circle could turn on her in an instant, and I'm sure she always knew that. And her relationship with Xander revealed her vulnerability beneath her icy exterior.

Throughout the series we've seen so many characters, all of them with their strengths and weaknesses. Even the Major was vulnerable in many ways, in his relationship with Faith, and dislike for germs and bad language, Spike who could never properly assert himself as the Big Bad when Angelus was around, and even Glory's vanity and need to be complimented by her minions.

One thing that I find makes it hard to like Kennedy is that she is never emotionally vulnerable. She seemingly has no insecurities or problems. We get the indication that she was able to "come out" pretty easily. She seems to be fairly well-off. Even being a Potential never seems to be a frightening prospect for her, in fact she seems eager to be the next slayer. She seems to exude confidence and we never really get to see what's behind it. Has she ever had a bad relationship in the past, like Buffy? Has she ever lost a love, like Willow? I can imagine that the answer to these questions is probably no because she's so young and cocky, but perhaps with time she would have become more experienced and more likeable.

EDIT- And look at the adverts at the bottom of the page. I guess all this talk about "Amber" seems to have made the site think we're all interested in fossils.

[ edited by Razor on 2006-07-21 17:19 ]
Good points all around. The counter argument for canon is that the First, by denying Willow the chance to actually see Tara, inflicts more pain on her since there would have been nothing more she would have liked.

As for Kennedy, I used to truly dislike her. Reading jetwolf, Kennedy has become far more real and I now can enjoy her presence in the real tale.

Off to ride a long distance on a bike now.... talk to you all on the 31st.
Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. I meant the planned return that Whedon talked about last summer with the actual Tara returning near the end of the series due to Buffy's wish. I can link to the article (I think it may have been at Comic Con or Some Wizard event) if you want. I had remembered her saying that she felt uncomfortable returning for CWDP but I don't think she has every addressed this. I guess she still hasn't.
Well, that was who knows, you know? Joss threw this out at a con, but a lot of people I know felt that was just him riffing on what he could have done, that it came to him late- though he has referred to the difficulties in negotiating with the Bensons, however obliquely. Still, that one is hard for me to believe, because you would still have Kennedy in the picture at the time- unless he had planned this much earlier, which also makes no sense, because Joss is known for planning far in advance and he'd have moved to tie up Amber long before the start of S7, and that most certainly did not happen. Amber has stated many times that she knew Tara was going to die upwards of two years in advance- so if he really meant to bring her back, why wouldn't he have arranged for Amber to be there? This to me sounds a bit after the fact, and perhaps a response to the outcry over her death. And the entire point of that death was that she could not come back- that's what turned Willow dark, and though I want Tara back more than anything, bringing her back like that would have undercut the power of the storyline that lost her. IMHO.

I really better head out to my ride, but I am enjoying this too much. I really need a life. :-)
Unitas -- As I remembered it, Joss originally wanted to bring back Tara but when Amber decided not to return, he went with the story of Willow moving on and finding a new girlfriend, Kennedy. If Amber had decided to return for Season 7, there would not have been a Kennedy story.

Here is the interview with Joss talking about bringing Tara back at the end of Season 7. It's a long interview and the relevant quote is below and on page 9 of the interview.
. . . Plan A was to bring Tara back.

IGNFF: I heard there were some failed discussions about that.

WHEDON: Amber didn't want to do it. She wanted to do other things. I had a whole – I used to tell people, "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to have her in a couple of flashbacks, keep her alive, and then at the end ..." I had a whole show figured out that ended with the return of Tara. I used to cry every time I pitched it. It was going to be Tara's her one true love, people are going to be blown away, they'll never see it coming – except on the Internet – and it's going to be just about the biggest thing. Quite frankly, Amber just didn't want to do it – which is her decision. I was like, "Okay, the thing where I cried, and we all cried, and I told you about? That's gone. So, instead, we're going to go out and find somebody really hot, and we're going to make this about moving on, because that's the only option we have. I don't want Willow stuck in typical gay celibacy on TV. I'm interested in where her heart will go once she's lost her true love, so let's do that instead." So, you know, hence Kennedy.

I'm unable to answer your question about why Amber decided not to return to Season 7 because it appears to me that Joss had bigger plans for Tara than one appearance in CWDP. However, I'm new to BtVS and Whedonesque, maybe one of the other members will be able to answer the question.
I can only tell you what she said. I cannot get in her mind, nor do I have any direct knowledge and neither Amber nor Joss have ever spoken about the details of their negotiations. I am simply saying that if he had this plan, he failed to act on it in a timely fashion; Tara's death was planned likely by the beginning of S5, and if he had wanted her back, he could have let Amber know then- all the interviews with her regarding this have had her state quite directly that she knew Tara was going to die. I have never seen one where she mentioned that the plan was to later bring her back- until all the way in S7, when they had discussions pertaining to her reprising the role as a manifestation of The First. If it was planned, Joss would have made arrangements then. Ain't neither of them dumb people, you know? And given the outcry, I'd have expected a better effort on both sides.

Anyway, I am finally leaving, so it will to others to provide any greater details. Wish me well- I am in awe of the Tour De France riders, who complete 2000 miles in 80 hours- I'll be choogling along at 14mph, and for 450 miles, that is a lot of time there. RAGBRAI, here I come!
Dana, could I ask what Jetwolf is?

As to the issue of Amber returning in season seven, I think I remember Joss saying that he had thought about doing an episode near the end of the season where Buffy was granted one wish, and then she cam into the Summer's house and pretended she used her to ask for them, to Willow's incredulous response. Then Tara stepped into the house. Buffy, of course, had used her wish on that, and not to get Joyce back (or wish The First out of existance).

I have kind of mixed feelings about that. Of course it would have been joyous, but one of the things that I love about the Buffyverse is that there are always consequences. Even though so many characters die and return in some form or another, cases where characters return from the dead and regain their former state are incredibly rare.

Buffy and Spike are two of the only people who have managed to achieve this. Buffy definitely died, but the aftermath of her resurrection saw her traumatised and depressed. One could also argue that Tara's death was indirectly caused by Buffy's resurrection, because it was that spell that really lifted Willow's magic abilities and caused their relationship to break down. It does have a kind of "all that you do will come back unto thee" logic to it. And Spike was resurrected as a ghost for a while. And I have my doubts that Spike was truly "dead"- it seems more like he was trapped in the amulet although he did suffer extreme pain in doing so.

But my point is, if you actually look at the dead characters who have returned, all of them have been vampires, or visages of The First, or ghosts, or something supernatural. Most are again killed but they are never the same person. So when someone does die then the stakes have to be very high. If Buffy was granted a wish to resurrect someone, then it kind of makes the "there's only one Urn of Osiris" drama in Bargainning silly, and I dislike this retroactive cheapening of the mythology. Perhaps it would have been fitting as we were so close to the end of the season and it wouldn't have mattered as much, but there was still Angel's mythology to worry about.

But I'm still quite happy with the way things turned out.
Dana, could I ask what Jetwolf is?

Since Dana is off cycling somewhere, I‘ll answer – Jet Wolf is the main woman behind one of the best virtual seasons, The Chosen (which is currently in hiatus in season nine). Season eight is almost perfect, she really loves and understands the characters, and (trying not to spoil) does something very clever with a well-loved character.
Dana, could I ask what Jetwolf is?

Ack! I've been reduced to a what!
Sorry, the expression "Reading jetwolf" didn't really give me a clue as to whether you were a person, or a vegetable, or a mineral. I know now, though, and I will check out the site. ;)
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read the interview, and in particular thanks to those of you who said nice things about it. It was an absolute pleasure to interview Amber. And I hope to have some interviews with a few of the Buffy and Angel novelists before too much more time passes, so keep dropping by the site. And read the books!. :)

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